Though business aviation is still young in China, the country has been quick to make clear its intention not just to be a consumer of imported business aircraft, but to be active as a manufacturer of them too. So far, partnerships with foreign airframers have been the main path to this goal, but now China’s Avic group has started work on its own design for what it calls the China New Generation Business Jet. And other new domestically developed general aviation aircraft are starting to take shape as well.
Two years ago, Brazilian manufacturer Embraer signed a framework agreement to start assembling Legacy 600 and 650 jets in China through their 10-year-old Embraer Harbin joint venture. It will mainly build aircraft for customers in China and the rest of the Asia Pacific region. The partnership already is backed by 10 commitments from a Chinese leasing group, covering five firm orders and five options.
On March 23 last year, just ahead of the 2012 ABACE show, Avic and Cessna (through its parent company Textron) signed a framework that will see Avic’s Chengdu Aircraft division involved in joint manufacturing of several of the U.S. company’s aircraft. By year-end, the Chinese factory is due to deliver the first locally assembled Citation Sovereign jet. Then in 2014, local production of the new Citation Latitude is due to begin. Avic is also due to support Cessna with research-and-development work for new business jets, as well as assembling the Citation XLS at its Zhuhai plant.
Back in November 2010, Avic’s China Aviation Industry General Aircraft (Caiga) subsidiary bought the assets of Epic Aircraft of the U.S. This gave it full technology and intellectual property rights to Epic’s Primus 100, Primus 150, Starlight 100 and Starlight 200 designs.
The $1.24 million Primus 150 is an all-composite single turboprop model that will be powered by GE’s H85 engine. It will attain speeds of up to 324 knots (600 km/h) and will have a range of up to 1,621 nm (3,000 km).
In November last year, the first prototype rolled off the assembly line and the program is now backed by eight launch orders. Caiga aims to achieve a first flight by the end of 2013, with certification targeted for 2015. The Primus 100 is a smaller version of the turbroprop single. The Starlight 100 and 200 designs are both very light jets.
Besides Avic, some local governments in China are also interested in establishing joint ventures with foreign manufacturers to form a complete general aviation manufacturing chain. For instance, in February, the Qingdao Economic and Technological Development Zone Management Committee signed a memorandum of cooperation with Italy’s Piaggio Aero Industries that is intended to lead to joint aircraft production.
This article originally appeared in World Flight magazine published by World Flight Ltd.